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Jurgen Klopp's all-time XI

Jurgen Klopp has coached some of the finest players of this generation
Jurgen Klopp has coached some of the finest players of this generation
Bhargav

Jurgen Klopp is considered one of the most astute tacticians in the modern game. He may not have the trophy haul of a Pep Guardiola or a Jose Mourinho, but the German has certainly carved out a niche for himself with his innovative brand of all-out attacking football involving high pressing.

Renowned for his 'heavy metal' football, Jurgen Klopp's teams are characterised by pressing opponents high up the pitch, forcing them to commit mistakes and scoring goals in the blink of a eye. It also involves 'gegenpressing' (counter-pressing), where Klopp's teams look to regain possession in the shortest possible time before the opponent is able to regroup.

In his own words, Jurgen Klopp used a musical metaphor to compare his style of football with that of Arsene Wenger, who was renowned for his possession-based style of play.

“He (Arsene Wenger) likes having the ball, playing football, passes. It’s like an orchestra. But it’s a silent song. But I like heavy metal more. I always want it loud."

Jurgen Klopp's best all-time XI

Jurgen Klopp became synonymous with his high-pressing football at Borussia Dortmund, where he successfully managed to challenge the domestic stranglehold of Bayern Munich. He then managed to take it up several notches at a brilliant Liverpool side brimming with quality in all departments.

Naturally, for the success of his style of play, Jurgen Klopp requires tireless players who are able to press for the ball, hurry opponents into making mistakes and exploit the open spaces in the attacking third with ruthless efficiency.

The German tactician has been lucky from that perspective, as he has been well-served by a bevy of fine players at both Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool who embodied Klopp's distinct style of play. On that note, let us have a look at the finest all-time XI managed by Jurgen Klopp.


Goalkeeper - Alisson Becker

Alisson Becker
Alisson Becker

Although Jurgen Klopp was well served by Roman Weidenfeller during his stint at Borussia Dortmund, Alisson Becker gets the nod for a plethora of reasons.

Arguably the better of the two goalkeepers, Becker has been a key component for an all-conquering Liverpool team that won their first league title in three decades last season and the Champions League title the season before.

Becker, one of Jurgen Klopp's finest ever signings, made an instant impact at Anfield after his arrival in the summer of 2018. The Brazil number one was an instant upgrade on the error-prone Loris Karius, whose costly errors against Real Madrid in the 2018 final cost Liverpool the Champions League title.

Becker, who has kept an impressive 47 clean sheets in 96 games in all competitions for Liverpool, is renowned for his impressive shot-stopping ability, composure and ability to play the ball out from the back.


Right-back - Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Full-backs play a vital role in Jurgen Klopp's teams. They are allowed to maraud down the flanks and pepper crosses into the opposition box to create an attacking overload. Of course, they are pacy enough to track back and fulfil their defensive responsibilities when the team is not in possession.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (more on him later) have epitomised and revolutionised Jurgen Klopp's playing philosophy like none else.

In Liverpool's Premier League-winning season last campaign, the two marauding full-backs provided more than ten assists apiece, which was the most by defenders in Europe's top five leagues.

In 144 games in all competitions for Liverpool, all under Jurgen Klopp, Trent Alexander-Arnold has provided 38 assists - 28 of them coming in the Premier League.

The 22-year-old Englishman's crossing prowess has been compared with that of a certain Steven Gerrard by former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.

"Ability-wise, you can’t question this kid - he’s got everything, his passing, going forward, the way he sees things. Defensively, it’s the only thing you could pick out. I don’t think there’s anyone that can get near him because his range of passing over different distances, it’s too much. That’s Steven Gerrard at Anfield,” said Ferdinand.

Centre-back - Mats Hummels

Mats Hummels (right)
Mats Hummels (right)

Although Mats Hummels' defensive prowess may have diminished in recent times, he made his name one of the finest centre-backs in the world under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.

The Bayern Munich academy graduate arrived at the Signal Iduna Park in 2008. He soon became one of the key components of a Borussia Dortmund team that won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and also made the UEFA Champions League final.

Although Hummels doesn't create a lot of goal-scoring chances, his aerial prowess makes him one of the key target men during set-pieces. Renowned for his impressive tackling and ball-playing ability, the 2014 World Cup winner has been called the best-ever German centre-back by Jurgen Klopp.

It's indeed high praise from one of the most successful managers in the game, one that Mats Hummels is not undeserving of.

Seemingly prematurely shunted out of the Germany setup after Die Mannschaft's miserable title defence at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Hummels proved to his detractors that he is far from being a spent force as he netted a rare Bundesliga double for Dortmund last weekend.


Centre-back - Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool superstar Virgil van Dijk has evolved into one of the finest centre-backs in the game since his arrival from Southampton in 2018.

Under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, the Dutchman has been a key player in the heart of the Liverpool defence. He has impeccable positional awareness and is almost impossible to dribble past.

Van Dijk doesn't score a lot of goals - he has scored just 13 times in 130 appearances for Jurgen Klopp's team in all competitions - but the centre-back's aerial prowess is second to none at both ends of the field.

Former England striker Peter Crouch recently lavished praise on the Liverpool centre-back when he said:

"I watched Van Dijk last week when Liverpool beat Wolves, and he did something that made me think 'Oh, my God!' It was when Adama Traore looked like he was going to open up on the touchline, having dragged Van Dijk out of position. Usually, a fast striker would leave you for dead, but Van Dijk's reaction was extraordinary. For a man so big and heavy to move so effortlessly alongside was remarkable, and it shows why they (Liverpool) have such a good defensive record.”

Throw in Van Dijk's impressive composure in one-on-one situations, brilliant reading of the game and prowess to play the ball out from the back, opposition teams are often unable to exploit the large vacant spaces left behind by Jurgen Klopp's marauding full-backs.

Not surprisingly, Van Dijk appeared in all 38 league games in Liverpool's victorious Premier League campaign last season and 12 of 13 games in the club's triumphant run to the Champions League title the season before.


Left-back - Andrew Robertson

Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson

Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold form one of the most devastating full-back partnerships in world football, and the duo have revolutionised the full-back role under Jurgen Klopp.

Robertson, who contributed 12 assists in Liverpool's successful Premier League campaign last season, has seen a renaissance of sorts under Jurgen Klopp after starting his career in the Scottish third tier at the start of the century.

Since arriving at Liverpool in 2017, the Scottish left-back has been an integral part of Jurgen Klopp's heavy metal attacking football that has delivered titles in the Premier League and the Champions League.

Given the license to venture upfield, Robertson has evolved to one of the best in his position, in the process vindicating Jurgen Klopp's decision to pluck a player from a relegated club (Hull City).

Like his partner on the other flank, Robertson doesn't score a lot of goals but provides assists aplenty. In 132 games in all competitions for Jurgen Klopp's team, Robertson may have scored only five times but has already provided a whopping 32 assists.

Robertson's passing range and his impeccable overlapping runs with his forward colleagues add a new dimension to Liverpool's attack. The indefatigable left-back was once described by then Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho as 'tiresome' to look at:

“I am still tired just looking at Robertson. He makes 100-metre sprints per minute, absolutely incredible.”

The boy from Glasgow has indeed come a long way from his humble beginnings.


Central Defensive Midfielder - Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson

Acquired by then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish in 2011, Jordan Henderson almost left the club a year later when Brendan Rodgers was at the helm. However, a move away did not materialise.

Three years later, after the departure of club legend Steven Gerrard, Jurgen Klopp arrived at the helm of Liverpool, and Henderson inherited the captain's armband. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even though he is not the best player in Jurgen Klopp's team, Henderson has thrived after getting relieved from a deeper midfield role to one further up field, thanks to the arrival of Fabinho. Although the bulk of Liverpool's scoring chances get created from the flanks, their captain offers them an alternate avenue from the middle of the park.

The first Liverpool captain to win the Premier League in history is the epitome of the team man. A vital cog in Jurgen Klopp's scheme of play, Henderson is a player who rallies his troops when the chips are down.

Henderson is the man who allows Liverpool's marauding full-backs to venture up field, provides chances to his forward colleagues and also chips in with occasional goals.

Jurgen Klopp eulogised Jordan Henderson after the latter won the Footballer of the Year award.

" One of the big questions in football is: what makes a proper player? What's more important? Is it talent or is it attitude? I think the easy answer is: without talent, you're nothing; without attitude, you will stay a talent forever. You are the perfect example that a mix makes the difference," said Jurgen Klopp about Henderson.

Attacking Midfielder - Marco Reus

Marco Reus (right) with Jurgen Klopp
Marco Reus (right) with Jurgen Klopp

Marco Reus rejoined his boyhood club Borussia Dortmund after missing Germany's Euro 2012 campaign and blossomed under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp.

He enjoyed immediate success on the left side of midfield as he starred for a Dortmund team that reached the 2013 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

Reus' versatility allows him to be deployed in a number of positions in the middle and attacking third. With his agility, shooting ability, passing prowess and the knack of both creating goals and scoring them, Marco Reus evolved into a world-class player under Jurgen Klopp. He remains an integral player for Dortmund long after the German tactician's departure from the club.

Reus remains humble and indebted to Jurgen Klopp for helping him become the player he is today.

“If Jurgen sits in front of you with his aura, which he radiates even when speaking, with his stature, it’s really quite impressive. He was definitely one of the reasons why I signed for Dortmund. Jurgen can develop players and make them better. He has a special way about him," said Reus about Jurgen Klopp.

Central Defensive midfielder - Ilkay Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan
Ilkay Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan arrived at Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2011 and immediately helped the club win the league and cup double.

The player's versatility meant that he was at ease in the centre of the park, creating chances for teammates, or acting as a shield for his defence. Perhaps the most endearing attribute of the player that made him a seamless fit at Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund was his world-class ball-playing prowess regardless of the position he was deployed in.

Thanks to his nimble touches, Gundogan can also dribble past defenders and jostle for the ball in a congested midfield, which is an area of the pitch which is arguably the most important in Jurgen Klopp's scheme of things.

In a later interview, Gundogan, who scored Dortmund's equaliser in the 2013 Champions League final, paid rich tribute to Jurgen Klopp for the footballing education he has received from his former manager.

"With Kloppo everything really started for me. Even though I won't forget Michael Oenning and Dieter Hecking (Gundogan's former coaches at Bochum and Nurnberg respectively), Kloppo was like a father to me and his speeches can be extremely motivating. There were times when he took the whip out, but he also embraced you and said, 'Boy, everything is okay.' " says Gundogan fondly about Jurgen Klopp.

Right Winger - Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah

One of Jurgen Klopp's finest ever signings, Mohamed Salah has set the stage on fire since arriving at Liverpool in the summer of 2017.

The prolific goal-scorer, who thrives on the right wing, has scored goals aplenty under Jurgen Klopp. Salah has scored 103 goals and provided 42 assists in 163 games in all competitions for Liverpool - a tally that consists of 19 goals in the club's Premier League-winning campaign last season.

Salah's goal-scoring may have dipped a wee bit from the 44 he netted for Jurgen Klopp's men during his first season at the club, but the Egyptian striker has also evolved his goal-creating prowess under Jurgen Klopp.

Salah's pace allows him to run behind defences, while his tactical awareness, dribbling skills, eye for goal and versatility in the attacking third make him a key component in Jurgen Klopp's scheme of things.

Peter Crouch has called Salah the complete player for his multiple attributes:

"He's gone from being a winger to a ruthless goal machine, and with the potential to set up chances as well. He's a complete player."

Centre Forward - Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski

Arguably the hottest striker on the planet at the moment, Robert Lewandowski first made his name at Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund.

After arriving at BVB in the summer of 2010, the former Lech Poznan striker plundered 30 goals as Dortmund recorded their most successful season in history by winning the league and Cup double.

In Jurgen Klopp's demanding system, Lewandowski not only thrived as the classical centre forward but was also one of the team's first line of defence, haranguing opposition defenders all game to force them into making mistakes.

Apart from being a fabulous target man because of his height, the Pole exhibited impressive linkup play with other forward colleagues like Mario Gotze or Marco Reus.

It goes without saying that when the ball is at his feet in the opposition box, Lewandowski is at his lethal best. The Pole's tally of 103 goals in 187 games for Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund can be called termed anything but ordinary.

Like many other players on this list, Lewandowski is grateful to Jurgen Klopp for moulding him into arguably one of the best centre forwards of all time. He said as much and more during a later interview with UEFA.

"He was a coach who also had a very big influence on my career, and I can only be thankful to him. What we did together at Dortmund and the progress we made has brought us to where we are. I'm delighted I was able to get to know such a coach and such a person as Jurgen because he's amazing – both as a coach and a person. I learned so much from him and that means a lot."

Right Winger - Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane

Along with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane forms one of the most fearsome attacking triumvirates in world football.

Since arriving at Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in the summer of 2016, Mane has scored 86 goals and provided 37 assists in all competitions - a tally that consists of three consecutive 20-goal seasons.

Following the exit of Philippe Coutinho, Mane saw his goal-scoring contribution increase manifold after getting transitioned to the left side of the attack, thanks to his explosive pace, directness and raw power. Together with his improved aerial prowess, better positioning and reduced profligacy, Mane instils terror among opposition defences down the left wing.

Former player Phil Thompson credited Mane for transforming the fortunes of Jurgen Klopp's side when he said:

"If you're looking at a player who has transformed a side and injected what they needed then it's Sadio Mane. People talk about this Liverpool team suddenly challenging for the title but what's the difference really been? I think it's all about Mane and the pace he has injected."

Jurgen Klopp undoubtedly deserves massive credit for transforming a decent goal-scorer into a Golden Boot contender.

Edited by Sai Krishna

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